Kara Walker. Rise Up Ye Mighty Race!, 2013. Installation detail at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Kara Walker. Rise Up Ye Mighty Race!, 2013. Installation detail at the Art Institute of Chicago.

New Kara Walker Installation Echoes a Call to Community Action

Kara Walker. Rise Up Ye Mighty Race!, 2013. Installation detail at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Kara Walker. Rise Up Ye Mighty Race!, 2013. Installation detail at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Kara Walker. Rise Up Ye Mighty Race!, 2013. Installation detail at the Art Institute of Chicago.

 

Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue
312-443-3600
Chicago
Modern Wing, Gallery 293
Rise Up Ye Mighty Race!
February 21-August 11, 2013

Critically acclaimed artist Kara Walker has, over the years, pursued the silhouette’s implications and transformations in paintings, drawings, collages, shadow puppets, cut steel, film and video animations, and “magic-lantern” projections. She returns to her signature cut-paper silhouettes in monumental form for a new site-specific, commissioned work titled Rise Up Ye Mighty Race! (2013), created specifically for the Art Institute of Chicago. The room installation includes five large framed graphite drawings and 40 small-framed, mixed-media drawings along with cut paper silhouettes.

Kara Walker is one of the most important artists of her generation, best known for cut-paper
silhouettes that critically address race, gender, sexuality, and power. Most often taking the form of large-scale tableaux of antebellum stereotypes, they present slavery as an absurd theater of eroticized violence and self-deprecating behavior. Her flat caricatures — mammies, sambos, slave mistresses, masters, and Southern belles — are depicted nearly life-size and arranged in narrative sequences that further exaggerate the already grotesque history of slavery. For Walker, the simplified details of a human form in the black or white cutouts resonate with racial stereotypes. She has said, “The silhouette says a lot with very little information, but that’s also what the stereotype does.”

Kara Walker’s installation for the Art Institute, Rise Up Ye Mighty Race!, includes five large framed graphite drawings and forty small-framed mixed-media drawings along with the cut-paper silhouettes. The title refers to comments made by Barack Obama in his 1995 book, Dreams from My Father, about the challenges of community organizing in Chicago, in which he cites the famous line by the Jamaican political leader Marcus Garvey (1887-1940). Merging handwritten text with the images in the drawings, the work takes a diaristic form that revolves around The Turner Diaries, written in 1978 by the white nationalist William Luther Pierce, and investigates the notion of the “race war” as it exists in the contemporary imagination. Walker has referred to the work as “a kind of paranoid panorama wall work — with supplemental drawings large and small, to chronicle what can be called a diary of my ever-present, never-ending war with race.”

Kara Walker was born in 1969 in Stockton, California and currently lives and works in New York. Some of the artist’s solo museum exhibitions include Presenting Negro Scenes Drawn Upon My Passage Through the South and Reconfigured for the Benefit of Enlightened Audiences Wherever Such May Be Found, By Myself, Missus K.E.B. Walker, Colored at Renaissance Society at University of Chicago (1997); Kara Walker at the Met: After the Deluge at Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2006); and Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love (2007-2008), which premiered at Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and travelled to Whitney Museum and Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Walker is the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships such as the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Achievement Award, the Deutsche Bank Prize, and the Larry Aldrich Award.

Kara Walker. Rise Up Ye Mighty Race!, 2013. Installation detail at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Kara Walker. Rise Up Ye Mighty Race!, 2013. Installation detail at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Kara Walker. Rise Up Ye Mighty Race!, 2013. Installation detail at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Kara Walker. Rise Up Ye Mighty Race!, 2013. Installation detail at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Kara Walker, Calling to Me from the Angry Surface of Some Grey and Threatening Sea. I was Transported.

Kara Walker, Excavated from the Black Heart of a Negress, UDSNIT.

Kara Walker, Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War.

Kara Walker, Untitled (Free Northern Girls).

Kara Walker, Do You Like Cream in Your Coffee and Chocolate in Your Millk?

 

Whitney Museum
of American Art
945 Madison Avenue
at 75th Street
New York
800-944-8639
Kara Walker:
My Complement, My Enemy,
My Oppressor, My Love

October 11-February 3, 2008

Organized by Philippe Vergne, Deputy Director and Chief Curator, and Yasmil Raymond, Assistant Curator, at the Walker Art Center, in close collaboration with the artist, Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love features works ranging from the artist’s signature black-paper silhouettes to her acclaimed recent film animations. The Whitney installation will be overseen by Chrissie Iles, the Museum’s Anne & Joel Ehrenkranz Curator.

Kara Walker is among the most provocative and prolific American artists of her generation. Over the past decade, she has gained national and international recognition for her room-size tableaux depicting historical narratives, haunted by racism, sexuality, violence, and subjugation, which she makes using the genteel 18th-century art of cut-paper silhouettes.

Set in the antebellum American South, Walker’s compositions play off stereotypes and portray, often grotesquely, life on the plantation, where masters and slaves engage in a profoundly unsettling historical struggle.

Over the years the artist has used drawing, painting, colored-light projections, writing, shadow puppetry, and, most recently, film animation to narrate her tales of romance, sadism, oppression, and liberation. Walker’s scenarios put an end to conventional readings of a cohesive national American history and expose the collective, and ongoing, psychological injury caused by the tragic legacy of slavery. Her work leads viewers through an aesthetic experience that evokes a critical understanding of the past and proposes an examination of contemporary racial and gender stereotypes.

Walker’s visual epics systematically walk a line — the “color line,” to quote W.E.B. Du Bois — that moves from antebellum South to analysis of the sustaining economic, social, and individual power structures still in place today.

Kara Walker (born November 26, 1969, Stockton, California) is best known for her room-size tableaux of black cut-paper silhouettes.

Walker's retired father is a formally educated artist, a professor, and an administrator. Her mother worked as an administrative assistant and was inspired by her family to reveal her own artistic talents. Walker's education includes an MFA at Rhode Island School of Design in Painting / Printmaking, and a BFA in Painting / Printmaking at Atlanta College of Art.

Some of Walker's exhibitions have been shown at The Renaissance Society in Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Walker has also been shown internationally and featured on PBS. Her work graces the cover of musician Arto Lindsay's recording, Salt (2004).

Walker's silhouette images work to bridge unfinished folklore in the Antebellum South, raising identity and gender issues for African American women in particular. However, because of her confronting approach to the topic, Walker's artwork is reminiscent of Andy Warhol's Pop Art during the 1960s (indeed, Walker says she adored Warhol growing up as a child). Her nightmarish yet fantastical images incorporate a cinematic feel. Walker uses images from historical textbooks to show how white people depicted African American slaves during Antebellum South. Some of her images are grotesque, for example, in The Battle of Atlanta, a white man, presumably a Southern soldier, is raping a black girl while her brother watches in shock, a white child is about to insert his sword into a nearly-lynched black woman's vagina, and a male black slave rains tears all over an adolescent white boy.
In 1997, Walker, 28 at the time, was one of the youngest people to receive a MacArthur fellowship.

In response to Hurricane Katrina, Walker created After the Deluge, since the hurricane had devastated many poor and black areas of New Orleans. Walker was bombarded with news images of "black corporeality," including fatalities from the hurricane reduced to bodies and nothing more. She likened these casualties to African slaves piled onto ships for the Middle Passage, the Atlantic crossing to America.
“ I was seeing images that were all too familiar. It was black people in a state of life-or-death desperation, and everything corporeal was coming to the surface: water, excrement, sewage. It was a re-inscription of all the stereotypes about the black body.”

In 2007, Walker was listed among Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in The World, Artists and Entertainers, in a citation written by fellow artist Barbara Kruger. Walker lives in New York and is on the faculty of the MFA program at Columbia University.

Kara Walker, Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War.

Kara Walker, Calling to Me from the Angry Surface of Some Grey and Threatening Sea. I was Transported.

Kara Walker, Excavated from the Black Heart of a Negress, 2002, (detail), Courtesy the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York.

An Unconventional Reading of the History of Racism in America

Kara Walker, Scene of McPherson’s Death, from Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War, (Annotated), 2005, Offset lithography and silkscreen, 38"x32".

Kara Walker, Buzzard’s Roost Pass, Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War, (Annotated), 2005, Offset lithography and silkscreen, 53"x 39".

 

Walker Art Center
1750 Hennepin Avenue
612-375-7655
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Kara Walker:
My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love

February 17-May 13, 2007

Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love features works ranging from Walker's signature black-paper silhouettes to film animations to more than 100 works on paper.

Walker is among the most complex and prolific American artists of her generation. In the past decade, she has gained national and international recognition for her room-size tableaux depicting historical narratives haunted by sexuality, violence, and subjugation but made using the genteel 18th-century art of cut-paper silhouettes. Set in the American South before the Civil War, Walker’s compositions play off stereotypes to portray, often grotesquely, life on the plantation, where masters and mistresses and slave men, women, and children enact a subverted version of the past in an attempt to reconfigure their status and representation.

Over the years the artist has used drawing, painting, colored-light projections, writing, shadow puppetry, and, most recently, film animation to narrate her tales of romance, sadism, oppression, and liberation. Walker’s scenarios thwart conventional readings of a cohesive national history and expose the collective, and ongoing, psychological injury caused by the tragic legacy of slavery. Her work leads viewers through an aesthetic experience that evokes a critical understanding of the past and proposes an examination of contemporary racial and gender stereotypes.

Walker’s visual epics systematically and critically walk a line — the “color line,” to quote W.E.B. Du Bois — that moves us from the antebellum South to an analysis of the sustaining economic, social, and individual power structures still in place today. Deploying an acidic sense of humor, she examines the dialectic of pleasure and danger, guilt and fulfillment, desire and fear, race and class. She has said, “the black subject in the present tense is the container for specific pathologies from the past and it is continuously growing and feeding off those maladies.”

Organized deliberately as a narrative, the exhibition articulates the parallel shifts in Walker’s visual language and subject matter: from a critical analysis of the history of slavery as a microcosm of American history through the structure of romantic literature and Hollywood film to a revised history of Western modernity and its relationship to the notion of “Primitivism.”

Walker Art Center began collecting Kara Walker’s work in 1996 with the acquisition of six ink drawings from 1994 and the etching/aquatint The Means to an End . . . A Shadow Drama in Five Acts (1995). Also in the collection are Do You Like Crème in Your Coffee and Chocolate in Your Milk? (1997), a suite of 66 drawings in various media; the cut-paper mural Endless Conundrum, An African Anonymous Adventuress (2001); the video animation Testimony: Narrative of a Negress Burdened by Good Intentions (2004); and a portfolio of 15 lithographs entitled Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated) (2005).

In 1997 Kara Walker created a new commissioned work for the Walker’s group exhibition no place (like home)—the monumental 85-foot-long cyclorama Slavery! Slavery! Presenting a GRAND and LIFELIKE Panoramic Journey into Picturesque Southern Slavery or “Life at ‘Ol’ Virginny’s Hole’ (sketches from Plantation Life)” See the Peculiar Institution as never before! All cut from black paper by the able hand of Kara Elizabeth Walker, an Emancipated Negress and leader in her Cause. Her work has also been included in the Walker exhibitions The Cities Collect (2000), American Tableaux (2001), and the currently running Quartet: Barney, Gober, Levine, Walker (April 17, 2005–December 9, 2007).

Born in 1969 in Stockton, California, Kara Walker received her BFA from the Atlanta College of Art in 1991 and her MFA from Rhode Island School of Design in 1994. Since that time, she has created more than 30 room-size installations and hundreds of drawings and watercolors, and has been the subject of more than 40 solo exhibitions. She is the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, including the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Achievement Award (1997) and, most recently, the Deutsche Bank Prize (2004) and the Larry Aldrich Award (2005). She was the United States representative for the 25th International São Paulo Biennial in Brazil (2002). She currently lives in New York, where she is associate professor of visual arts at Columbia University, New York.

 

Kara Walker, Insurrection! (Our Tools Were Rudimentary, Yet We Pressed On), 2000.